build, hack, tweak, share, discover,^
Written By: Brian Sawyer
Hardcover book (1)
Distress ink (1)
Lumiere brand paints in two-tone metallics.
Printed image on heavy-stock paper.
Other embellishments that pique your fancy.
Cutting mat (1)
Glue stick (1)
Sponge brush (1)
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Hole punch (1)
Post-It removable cover-up tape.
Part bookbinding, part bibliovandalism, part mixed-media collage, and part scrapbooking, the
craft of altered books is becoming increasingly popular and recognized as the distinct art
form it is. But what exactly is an altered book? According to the International Society of
Altered Book Artists (alteredbookartists.com), it's "any book, old or new, that has been
recycled by creative means into a work of art. They can be ... rebound, painted, cut, burned,
folded, added to, collaged in, gold-leafed, rubber stamped, drilled, or otherwise adorned..."
Note the trailing ellipsis: the possibilities are as open as your mind, so no list of
embellishments will ever be complete. The techniques presented here are by no means
meant to be exhaustive, but these common examples should provide enough tools and
inspiration to get you started with altered books.
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Step 1 — Getting started.
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• First, choose a book to use as your
"blank canvas." Hardcover books
work better than paperbacks
because they have the strength to
support the weight of
embellishments and to sustain the
abuse you'll be inflicting on them.
• As tempting and obvious a choice
as a children's board book is, using
one will require a lot more work.
Because glues don't adhere well to
the glossy pages, you'll need to
sand off the plastic coating from all
of the pages and prime them with
gesso before getting to work.
• Before settling on a book, bend
back the corners of a few pages.
Make sure they don't crack;
cracking is a sure sign they won't
sustain the altering process.
• With these practical concerns in
mind, choose a book that interests
you, since you'll be living with it for
a while. You can choose a book
based on its design or aesthetics
alone, or according to a contextual
theme you intend to work with
throughout the book. Of course, if
you intend to completely cover or
mutilate the book, the content won't
make much difference. In this
case, you should perhaps choose
based on durability alone.
• Book in hand, now make room for
the embellishments you're going to
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add. Go through the entire book,
removing pages periodically
(pulling firmly, right up against the
spine) in groups of 2 or 3. You'll
need to tear out more as you go,
but it's best to get rid of a bunch of
pages at the beginning (plus,
emotionally, I've found this to be
the most difficult part of beginning,
once you've ripped out a few
pages, altering the rest of the book
becomes much easier).
• Finally, choose your first spread
(altering facing pages as a single
unit creates a unified aesthetic)
and glue a couple of pages together
(more for heavier embellishments)
on either side. As you alter the rest
of the book, you'll need to do this
for every spread you work on, to
reinforce the surface and support
the weight of the embellishments
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Step 2 — Adding a pocket page.
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• The first alteration we'll make is a
simple pocket, formed by folding a
page upon itself and fastening it to
the page below it with brads. First,
glue together 3 consecutive groups
of 2 pages each. The 2 outer
groups of pages act as the
standard altering surface
mentioned previously, while the
one in the middle is folded into our
• Fold the middle page into a point at
its fore edge, hiding the folded
portion behind the page.
• Use a small hole punch to create 3
openings (indicated by green
circles) at the corners of the
triangle formed by your fold,
punching through both the middle
page and the page behind it.
• Insert decorative brads into the
holes and open the clasps behind
the back page, joining the pages in
a closed pocket.
• Using a sponge brush to apply
Distress Ink on all the pages in the
spread quickly creates a nice aged
or weathered effect, though the
possibilities for further embellishing
this pocket are wide open.
• After finishing this pocket, I
stamped a couple of shipping tags
to stuff inside, though you can
leave it empty or fill it with
whatever you choose. I thought the
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Mona Lisa fit quite well with the
Italian art and pop culture posters
featured throughout the book.
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Step 3 — Adding a pop-up mechanism.
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• With a pop-up mechanism, the act
of opening pages can trigger an
engaging response for the reader.
Find an image that works with your
theme. Dover Publications
books and CDs of royalty-free art
from the public domain, which work
well for personal projects you
intend to display or sell without
seeking additional permission for
• Print the image on hard-stock
paper, or print on a standard sheet
of copy paper and then glue to a
page with a heavier weight.
• Cut out the image, leaving a
clearance of 1" or 2" on the bottom
and sides for added support (as
marked with a solid red line). Cut
the upper half of the image (the
part that will extend above the top
of the book when the pop-up is
open) directly on its edge.
• Fold the image in half vertically
(the dotted blue line) and keep it
folded for the next fold.
• Fold the top of the image down (the
dotted green line) at a 45-degree
angle to the first fold (the dotted
blue line). Reinforce the fold by
creasing it in the other direction.
Then, open the image to see all of
• Fold the image vertically again (the
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other direction on the dotted blue
line); creating a crease that opens
freely in either direction.
• Glue the anchor to the spread,
aligning the top of the anchor (the
upper horizontal red line) with the
top edge of the book, and aligning
the centerfold of the image with the
• Fold the top of the image down into
the crease and close the book,
applying pressure. Allow glue to
• Open your book to see the image
pop up. Then, to complete the
spread, paint over the empty
portion of the anchor or cover it
with other embellishments. When
finished, the pop-up mechanism
should be integrated fairly
seamlessly into the rest of the
ornamentation on the pages.
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Step 4 — Text masking.
• Text masking involves highlighting
portions of text while painting over
the rest. Most pages have enough
words to create a new passage that
fits your theme, regardless of the
• Cover the text you want to remain
visible with Post- It removable
• Use a sponge brush to apply paint
to the entire page, completely
covering the taped areas, then wait
for the paint to dry. This takes
about 15 minutes or so.
• Remove tape to reveal your hidden
message. Though I began a little
skeptically because of all my book-
loving baggage (I knew it would be
tough for me to deface a book,
even in the name of art), I now
think I'm hooked. The more you
alter, the more you realize that
"finishing" any project requires an
incredible level of discipline. I have
a feeling most of my books will
forever remain "works in progress,"
which shouldn't be seen as a bad
This project first appeared in CRAFT Volume 02 , pages 130-133.
This document was last generated on 2012-10-31 06:39:54 PM.
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